Let's start this conversation by saying all of my evidence is anecdotal. I haven't done any widespread research to prove my instincts; I just continue to have more and more people whispering to me that they don't use social media to drive results. And they're not suffering at all; their companies are doing great.
“Wait!”, you declare, “They could be doing so much better!”
Nope. One of the companies has over 100% growth YoY in a highly competitive market. None of their leadership nor their employees maintain a consistent social media presence. The vast majority of their leads come from conferences that they attend all over the globe. They have an inside sales team that follows up on those leads and drives home conversions.
Another business just built out new office space and is self-funding their growth. They have an integration product that has no competition in an Enterprise industry, and they sign customers as quickly as they can show them a demo. Seriously – no social media.
I'm not just talking about monitoring for alerts… I'm talking zero effort put into their social media strategies.
On the other side, I have one company I work with that told me they don't do anything but social media promotion because it works so well. “What else have you tried?”, I asked. “Nothing, we don't need to.”, said the owner. Fascinating, so the one company touting social media results does nothing but social media. How do they know it's working?!
Marketers Wake Up
A colleague recently told me that his CMO was recently laid off after months of reporting vanity metrics to the board. Pageviews, Follows, Likes, and Retweets… with absolutely no correlation to any revenue generation or growth.
We have a client who celebrated their social media prowess, accumulating a gigantic following across social media platforms. They worked incredibly hard to engage and nurture their social media network. But when it came to demos and downloads, the numbers never had a correlation.
My anecdotal observations continue with my websites. While I do get some nibbles via a LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are producing zero revenue. I recently tested and drove tens of thousands of additional readers to engage with through Facebook manager. Yep.. you guessed it. Didn't go.
Four Problems with Social Media Marketing
There are four problems that hurt our ability to get great social media-attributed sales:
- Intent – do your fans and followers on social media follow you because they're researching their next purchase and checking out your company? My guess is that's a tiny percentage of your overall audience… and have fun trying to figure out exactly who they are.
- Attribution – the transition between social networks and your analytics is full of gaps, the biggest of all being sales that came from a Tweet or Facebook Update. It's not impossible; it's just difficult.
- Funnels – every marketer loves to draw your conversion funnel and will tell you that engagement is vital between awareness and conversion. The problem isn't the order; it's the space between. Customers visualize this cool funnel where prospects skip the last step to the next. The reality is very different. Conversions are miles away from connecting on social media. It may take years to drive the authority home that you have an should be recognized for. That's a ton of effort with very little return on investment.
- Vanity – doesn't it feel amazing when you get hundreds or thousands of views, likes, tweets, retweets, shares or contest entries? It does – our team has done it and high-fived at our social media prowess. The problem, of course, was that none of those metrics led to any business. When the phone isn't ringing, marketers love to point at vanity metrics to divert attention.
Marketers should be working from revenue backward to the prospect. Recognizing where your revenue is coming from should be your top priority and then driving business through those mediums and channels.
I'm not saying social media will not or can not work, I'm just noting that I often see marketing investments in other strategies that have a much higher return on investment, require much less effort, and are easier to track.
I'm also not giving up on social media. I realize that brand awareness, recognition, authority, and trust can all drive great results. I'm just arging that result in social media are often exaggerated. If anyone tells you different, check out there business and investigate how they get paid.
My guess is that it's not through social media.